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Marriage counsellors reveal common sex problems

Marriage counsellors reveal common sex problems
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It’s not uncommon for couples to experience problems with sexual compatibility over time. It can be due to stress, conflicting schedules, fatigue related to work or child-rearing, or some other factor. Some couples even become stuck in sexless marriages or partnerships for months or even years at a time. The loss of intimacy can be damaging to a relationship. However, there are ways to bring back the passion in your sex life, according to couples counsellors.

We asked therapists and counsellors to tell us what sexual problems they hear about most often, as well as the solutions they recommend to resolve them.

We don’t have time for sex

We don’t have time for sex
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“Between jobs, kids, taking care of the household, and social demands, you may feel like there’s no time left for each other,” says marriage and family therapist, Jill Whitney. “When you do have time together, it’s more likely to be collapsed on the sofa in front of Netflix rather than romping in the bedroom.”

“Sex is an important way for partners to connect physically and emotionally,” she says. “It deserves to be a priority in your marriage.” She suggests blocking out uninterrupted time together. “Go on dates where you laugh and talk. Then come home early enough that you’re not too tired to get frisky,” she says. “Arrange an overnight babysitting swap with another family so you can bask in bed together on a Saturday morning. Do whatever you need to make sure sex remains a vibrant part of your marriage. It’s an important ‘glue’ that keeps you strong as a couple.”

Check out these surprising reasons your partner doesn’t want sex.

Sex is now boring

Sex is now boring
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It’s not unusual to feel like things have gotten a little stale when it comes to your sex life. However, a 2017 study published in the journal BMJ Open suggests this feeling can come sooner for women. Researchers found women reported a lack of interest in sex once they were in a relationship for more than a year. “Couples often figure out a pattern of lovemaking that works for them,” says Whitney. “One partner does this lovely thing, the other person does that, and everyone has a good time. Unfortunately, your typical way of making love gets old after a while. Your sex may still be pleasant, but it’s not exciting.” Whitney encourages couples to try something novel. “This could be something as simple as new lingerie, a slow massage, or watching a racy movie together,” she says. If you’re feeling a little braver, she says you can discuss your fantasies and try to act on them.

My husband wants sex all the time

My husband wants sex all the time
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In heterosexual marriages, “many women want sex just as much as men,” says Dr Simonsen, a marriage and family therapist. It’s common wisdom, though, that women place more value on the emotional connection as a spark of sexual desire. “They’re more emotionally in tune in the relationship. They don’t want to be intimate because they’re emotionally disconnected from their spouse. Men value food, sex, and respect to be happy in a marriage. Women value security and everything that comes with that… emotional, physical, etc.”

Don’t miss these nutrition strategies for a stronger sex drive.

We’re in a sexless marriage

We’re in a sexless marriage
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Definitions of a sexless marriage vary. “Typically this means that the couple hasn’t had some sort of sexual connection in over a year,” says clinical and consulting psychotherapist, Dr Paul Hokemeyer. He says he explains to couples that they’re not alone. “Some studies put the percentage of sexless marriages at 20 per cent. Just knowing they’re not alone provides relief and removes the obstacles that have impeded their sexual functioning,” he says.

Then Hokemeyer has the partners discuss why they haven’t had sex. He says he hardly hears anyone say that their partner is not sexually attractive. “In fact, the partners confirm that they still find their partner attractive,” he says. “Life, its responsibilities, and the ageing of their – not their partner’s – bodies is the reason for their lack of sexual engagement.” Then the couples discuss and arrange how to make sex part of their life.

Sex is painful

Sex is painful
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“Sometimes there are legitimate medical reasons that a woman might not feel comfortable having sex,” says marriage and family therapist, Dr Gary Brown. He says one physical condition is vaginismus, when the vaginal muscle involuntarily spasms. “When this occurs, intercourse can be painful for a woman,” says Dr Brown.

“Her partner should understand that she can’t control when this occurs. It may happen infrequently or chronically. Treatments are available once a diagnosis has been made.” In heterosexual relationships, the penis can also create pain during vaginal intercourse. Couples often go slow at first, and use lubricants, he says. “No matter why sexual problems exist for any couple, it’s vital that they find ways to establish enough trust between them so that they can talk about what is and isn’t working in the bedroom,” he says. “Being in couples counselling may help bridge whatever gaps exist between them so that they can both enjoy a passionate and fulfilling love life together.”

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Feelings of fatigue

Feelings of fatigue
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Constant fatigue can bring your sex life to a halt. “The old, ‘Not tonight; I have a headache’ has turned into ‘Not tonight; I’m exhausted,’” says relationship expert, Dr Gilda Carle. Consider rearranging what’s important in your life so you have enough energy for intimacy. “Long after you leave your career or your neighbourhood, it’s your partner who will be your steady anchor of support – unless you push him away in favour of everything else. You must decide how important to you your partner really is.”

Here are some simple ways to improve your sex life.

One person is emotionally ready. The other wants to be physically ready.

One person is emotionally ready. The other wants to be physically ready.
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“One person, usually the woman, wants to feel close emotionally to her partner before she’s interested in being sexual,” says social worker and author of the Sex-Starved Marriage, Michele Weiner-Davis. “She wants to spend time together, talking and nurturing the ‘friendship’ aspect of the relationship.” The other person, usually the man, wants to feel close to his partner physically. “Being connected physically includes sexual, sensual, and affectionate touch and other flirtatious behaviours.” What happens then is a vicious cycle. “If a man initiates sex to connect and the woman rejects the advances because she feels distant emotionally, he becomes hurt. His wife pulls away, becoming more physically averse.” That’s when they need to meet halfway. One person needs to make their partner feel appreciated. The other needs to be more physically affectionate. “Healthy relationships are built on mutual caretaking,” she says.

One person wants spontaneous sex. The other wants to schedule sex

One person wants spontaneous sex. The other wants to schedule sex
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“The spontaneous partner associates good sex with ‘when-you-feel-like-it’ approach,” says social worker, Roebrt Taibbi. On the flip, some like to put it on the calendar. “The other partner says spontaneity on midnight on a Tuesday just doesn’t work when you have to get up early in the morning, they can’t relax because the kids are around, or they like being able to do some prepping.” These couples should find a middle ground and find the best time to have sex. “They need to find some combination that is win-win,” says Taibbi.

Need an aphrodisiac? Here are some of the best foods to boost your sex life.

We aren’t in sync

We aren’t in sync
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“One wants to talk dirty and the other is disgusted. One wants to try different things and the other likes to keep it routine,” says Dr Tina B. Tessina. “Often couples associate love with wanting the same things. So, if your partner wants something other than what you want, it can be scary.” For example, she says sex is like eating.

“You can have different tastes and appetites but still find a way to enjoy eating together.” She helps couples talk about their likes and dislikes, without making the other wrong. “Almost always, sexual differences can be bridged with a little of what one partner wants and some of what the other partner wants. They can even grow to enjoy each other’s favourite things.”

Check out these little sex mistakes you don’t realise you’re making.

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